Sundays on Twitter, web serial writers meet over the hashtag #WebFictionChat to talk about the nature of their work. This week's discussion was genre. Twitter's 140 character limit doesn't allow for answers that far in depth, but can lead to deeper thoughts. Some questions were easy; others, well, Unruly defies genres at times.
Introduction: Tonight's chat is about genre. What genre do you write?
I originally answered urban fantasy, mostly. Looking at what I have here, that might not be correct. Subject 13 is a superhero YA-ish slice-of-life story. Lethal Ladies is, roughly, a mystery with spy thriller elements. By the Numbers is Shadowrun, a mix of cyberpunk and Tolkien fantasy. Beaver Flight is science fiction. The Soul Blade is urban fantasy by way of supers. Unruly is a kitchen sink at this point, with elements of mad science, urban fantasy, crime drama, romance, boarding school, slice-of-life, and in the future, legal drama. I'm all over the place, really.
Q1. What draws you to the genre you write?
The potential in urban fantasy and science fiction are the draw. So much is possible, even with limitations inherent in the setting. As long as the unusual doesn't break suspension of belief too much, I can get away with a lot. With Subject 13, if I need twin fire projector/manipulators to challenge Nasty, I can add them without breaking the boundaries of the setting. The same pyro twins would have to be altered for Unruly; superpowers don't exist and magic isn't that blatant.
Q2. Do you mesh genres - if so, which?
Unruly is the ultimate meshing of genres, allowing for almost anything to come up, depending on the characters involved.
Q3. How do you let potential readers know what genre to expect?
Badly. Probably something for me to work on. Unruly doesn't make it easy to classify. The Soul Blade, though, is urban fantasy, and should have been announced as such. The first few paragraphs should be a clue of the genre, as Brenna has a conversation with her late mother's ghost.
Q4. How do you determine your genre's target audience?
I have a target audience? At this point, most the writing is either to get an idea out of my head and out on digital paper or to fill in a gap that I want to read. I went searching for a novel featuring mecha versus mecha fighting on Friday and didn't find anything. I may have to fill in that lack.
Q5. Do you decide "I want to write x genre" or do you just write a story and see where it fits?
Most of the time, I start with the concept, which then defines the genre. Again, Unruly is the odd story out here, nicking elements from many genres. My potential NaNoWriMo work is urban fantasy, because of the paranormal elements I want to include, not because I wanted to write urban fantasy.
Q6. Do you read the genres you write?
I do. I've read urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction all over Mohs scale, Westerns, spy thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, and I'm currently reading non-fiction about crime in Japan*. Most of that shows up somehow in my writing.
Q7. Anyone have a genre question they want to ask?
I had none here, in part because I was multitasking with character creation for The One Ring at the Sunday night game. I wound up having to go to choice number three after my first two choices, a character from Gondor and a character from Bree, weren't covered in the rules available. Third choice became a Dúnedain scholar, albeit one who travels and learns on the roads of Middle Earth instead of inside poring over ancient tomes. But no, no genre question asked by me.
Q8. Any thoughts on what the next big new genre will be? I don't know where the trends are headed.
Someone else did have a question, though. Supers are big right now, and may become the new Western in ubiquity. Colonization stories may get a surge as setting up a colony on Mars becomes more and more possible. Mash-ups may get more prominent; combining two or more unusual genres into one, as this tweet thread shows. Marvel Studios has been good at combining superheroes with other genres. Iron Man was a super-technological thriller. Thor was super-fantasy. Ant-Man was a super-heist movie. Guardians of the Galaxy was a super-space opera. I've heard that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a super-political thriller. Other thoughts? Please leave them in the comments on the possible big new genre.
Q9. What genre would you never want to write?
I couldn't think of much at the time beyond navel-gazing lit fic**. However, I don't write horror, nor do I read it. It's just not something I enjoy. Thus, vampires aren't likely to appear in anything I write unless they get messily staked and treated as a monster. However, monsters aren't necessarily horror, hence the time-travelling kaiju invasion idea. Godzilla isn't horror; it's a film about the horrors of the atomic bomb in the form of a giant monster that needs to be defeated. Giant monsters, from Godzilla to Tremors's graboids are acts of nature, to be survived, than lurking horrors.
Thus endeth the chat. I may not do this for every #webfictionchat, but if the questions deserve a deeper exploration, I will. The twitter chat happens every Sunday night starting around 6pm Eastern time, though that may change with the end of Daylight Saving Time, especially this coming weekend.
* Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein. So far, I've found that the megacorporate arcologies that pop up in cyberpunk have a basis in reality.